Peripheral Artery Disease: Overview

Between 8 million and 12 million Americans have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition in which arteries that shuttle blood from the heart to the head, limbs and internal organs are narrowed. In most cases, PAD affects the legs. If you have PAD, you may have noticed pain in your calves, thighs, feet or buttocks as you walk or exercise, also referred to asintermittent claudication.

Peripheral artery disease is related to atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material called plaque builds up on the inside of artery walls and reduces blood flow to the muscles. The limited blood flow can cause your legs to hurt when you walk.

PAD signals that other arteries may be blocked, too—increasing your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Untreated, PAD also can lead to infection and tissue death (gangrene).

About one in every 20 Americans over age 50 has PAD. African Americans, who have a higher risk for high blood pressure and diabetes, have a higher risk for PAD than people of other ethnicities. The good news is that by working with your healthcare team, you can learn more about lifestyle changes and treatment options that will help you live a more active life.